After the bustle of Marrakesh the whole of this road trip has been as if we were the only people in this part of Morocco. Partly due to Ramadan when many business only open a few hours and people spend the day quietly in their homes asleep during daylight and it’s the low season in this part too, so the peace and quiet was wonderful. At times of course frustrating when you forgot to stock up on food and water early in the morning or the previous evening, visiting closed museums, doors to guest houses firmly closed or if open no one around and then finally after calling “Bonjour!” in the open hotel a sleepy host is roused. But we would rather have had it like this it made it feel special and relaxing. In every hotel we have been the only guests, had wonderful home cooked dinners and breakfasts sitting on terraces some with good views others in peaceful courtyards or gardens. Everywhere has a welcoming pot of mint tea for the new guests.
Highlights were Dades Gorge, Merzouga desert and fossil hunting in Anfli. In Dades Gorge we stayed about a 10 km in from the main road,
about a third of the way up. Our host, Mohamed took us on a great walk for 5 hours through the gardens of the valley, along (and in) a river, up over rocks, squeezing through narrow canyons, and back with views along the valley and of the great rock formations of the gorge. Many birds including a woodpecker and hoopoes and a small terrapin whizzing past in the current. Mohamed and his 8 year old daughter walked along in their flip-flops putting us to shame in our trainers! A big challenge for him in the heat and not being able to drink.
We stayed just outside Merzouga village, near the Algerian border, in the Panorama Hotel. There were fantastic views of the sand dunes that came up close and amazing stars at night. Yusef was our host here, he was from a nomadic family who had recently settled in the village and bought the Kasbah on the hill, various cousins lived around and owned other hotels nearby. We opted to do a 4WD trip with one of these cousins. He took us to two lakes and into the dunes a little way. Amazing to see lakes in the desert,
both had plentiful water bird populations, the bigger one, Lake Yasmin, was right up close to the dunes, great for pictures of reflected dunes with stilts in the foreground, quite bizarre. Just as the sun was going down we spotted three very young desert foxes popping their heads out of a hole, super cute. Dunes are always pretty and we enjoyed a couple of sunsets and sunrises with the changing colours.
Fossil hunting in Anfli was great fun. We did a two hour trip with a geologist’s assistant called Ibrahim. Despite not being the main man he had spent 7 years working in the shop with fossils and going out collecting, so he was perfectly knowledgeable for our level. We wandered up a dry river bed and were surprised how many trilobites we found. I say we, Steve and I found lots of small bits and Ibrahim found the wonderful stones that when he tapped them, they split apart and a three dimensional 450 million year old fossilized creature was uncovered. Anfli is apparently the trilobite capital of the world. One species dominates but there are more rare ones and bivalves and ammonites that earn a lot of money
The drives have mostly been through unvarying rocky desert, some valleys have had a lot of ruined kasbahs, the old fortified large homesteads/ villages that make for interesting photos. We did a couple of tours of these which were interesting. Even found an owl posing as an ornament in one darkened room. Many have been used in films such as Aladdin and Prince of Persia, The English Patient and most recently Game of Thrones.
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